A Road Trip Just What the Doctor Ordered

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves compares the October series and last weekend's series against Denver, John Mitchell status for the Minnesota State weekend, the challenges of playing in Mankato and how this upcoming weekend is the type of weekend the Badgers need.

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves -

full transcript

QUESTION #1: You look at the 45 shots from Saturday night on Cheverie, a lot of them were long shots. Do you feel your team was settling for shots at the blue line instead of trying to create stuff down low?

MIKE EAVES: No. The philosophy is to get the puck on the net so it creates rebound and get rebounds from there. I mean, that's been the philosophy ever since. If you can't gain the zone, we're not settling for anything. Part of the philosophy is to get the puck on the net and have middle drive and get the second rebounds. That hasn't changed all year.

I'll make one more comment along those lines. If you take a look at the scoring chances for the weekend, we out-chanced them, and part of that comes from getting the puck on the net. So we're not settling for anything. That's part of the strategy. So you have to be very clear about that. You can take a look at numbers from Friday night, we out-chanced them in Saturday, by our count, we out-chanced them. So that's part of the strategy. We're not settling for anything.

QUESTION #2: Before you look ahead to Mankato, the two series with Denver, the first one you called the worst weekend of the year in terms of performance. This one, can you compare the impact that they've had on your team to this?

EAVES: The feelings at the end of the weekend is the same, you know. The thing that we don't want to have paralysis by analysis here. We were 15 seconds away from being tied for first and all those kind of things, and we don't want to over analyze everything. And talking to people, I think you take a look at the outcome of the game on Friday, heck, we played some pretty good hockey there. And on Saturday, it was not the start we needed, and things unraveled quickly, and it was an uphill battle all the way. I mean, even going into the second period, had we been able to score early and get some life and energy, that didn't happen. And you know, that fourth goal kind of put a lid on it. But the fact is that we played some pretty good hockey Friday and, at the end of the weekend, the feeling was the same, Andy, as early in the year when we were at Denver.

QUESTION #3: Given the apparent fluid nature of John Mitchell's penalty sequence from Saturday night, is there any concern that that's going to change again? Has he, have you heard from the league that there's any concern about what his availability for the weekend...

EAVES: He is going to be fine. I t talked to Greg Shephard Saturday night just to make sure what transpired there. What I was told by the referee and what happened on the game sheet were two different things. Talked to Greg right away, and he spoke with the referee and we got it cleared up. So he will be available this Friday.

QUESTION #4: Assess Brendan Smith's performance this weekend coming back from an injury.

EAVES: Probably a typical weekend for coming back from being off for six weeks, six plus weeks. So you know, you're always nervous about when a player comes back in because they got to get in the flow of things. What you tend to remember was how they good they are, you remember all the good things they can do, but in between there's that process from being hurt and getting going again, and that's kind of the process he was in last weekend is getting himself going again.

QUESTION #5: All time at Mankato, Wisconsin is 4-8-2. Is there something that you look at that why you guys don't play or haven't played well there historically?

EAVES: Well I think if you went and looked at a lot of teams, they don't play well there. It's a tough place to play. It's, you know, that crowd, it reminds me of the junior hockey league. You know, they get rowdy. They sing that European song, and they get into it. I know as a coach I can't see the game very well from the bench. I feel like I'm tucked in this bunker behind the bench and can't see what's going on. And they play hard. It's a hard place to play in. They have a good team. They play hard and physical and it's a dark building and they, you know, so it's like playing in a cave a little bit. But that's the kind of atmosphere they want, and it's a great, it's a great test for your team. I think it's the type of weekend we need right now to rebound. We know what we're getting ourselves in for, and we need to get up and get ready to play.

QUESTION #6: Is this familiar territory with Shane? You go back to the St. Cloud series where you struggled the first night, maybe the Northern Michigan game the second night. Is he, is this, are we covering new ground here?

EAVES: No, I think I talked to Shane yesterday, sat down and chatted about the weekend, and wanted to get everything on the table and find out where he was at, let him know where we thought he was at, and what we needed to do this week to get himself going. I think he left the game last night with a little jump in his step and looking forward to this week. He's, you know, he has been, at times of this season, one of the best goalies in the league. And there's times where he has slipped, and we need him to get back to being the best goaltender in the league again, and he knows he's capable of that. So we talked about that process and about mentally letting that game go. He's got to be a good safety now and, you know, guy just beat him wide for a touchdown, got to let it go. Got to get ready for the next one. And so, you know, he's proven he can do that. He's been down and come up, in terms of his performance, and I think he'll do that again for this team.

QUESTION #7: You've had some kind of demoralizing sweeps and been able to rebound. After Northern Michigan, you won six out of eight. You look back to being swept in Mankato in '06, you guys caught fire and went on to win the national title. What's the key for a team after kind of a dark weekend to kind of flip the switch right away?

EAVES: We talked about that as a coaching staff this morning. That's our task as a staff is "what do we to do get that back," and I think we told the guys when we left the building here that when you get knocked down like this is by pulling your own socks up and coming back and feeling good about yourself. And part of that is getting back on the ice and working hard, snapping the puck around, a guy is being proactive in terms of their attitude coming to the rink. You know, we get to play hockey today. Let's go out and play hockey. Let's move the puck around. Let's work hard. Let's feel good about ourselves and remember that we're a very good hockey team. We're 13-5-1 in our last games.

So we've done some good things, and so it's about those type of things, and we're not going to, where because we got swept this weekend at home, we're not going to go out and bury the guys in terms of conditioning them for the whole 60 minutes. We're going to go out and remind ourselves of the skills we need to have, work hard, fine tune our systems, feel good about ourselves, and look forward to coming back tomorrow.

QUESTION #8: In the games that you've struggled this season, is there something that Shane has failed to do or something that he's been doing in those games that's led to him giving up so many goals?

EAVES: Well, you know, goaltending is pretty interesting position, because when you make a mistake, there's no one behind you to back it up. You know, when a forward makes a mistake, they got the defensemen there. When the defensemen make a mistake, you know, hopefully your goalie is there. Goaltending philosophy, if you were to put it down to the barebones is you should stop the runs you should and three out of the five you shouldn't. That means you're going to get scored twice. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn't. But in Shane's case, it's happened more times than not. So does he wish he could have that shot back again, absolutely.

I still don't understand how that thing rolled up his shoulder, down his back, and across the goal line. Those are some things, there are mysteries in life we'll never understand, but he's been good for us this year, and we expect him to bounce back and be good again.

QUESTION #9: Before the Denver series, you guys kind of had control of your own destiny. Now with the way things played out, do you still think that, in these final four games, you do control your own destiny as far as the post season goes?

EAVES: Well, it's a little bit more precarious now whether we do or not. Not as definitively, that's for sure. There's a chance we still could win the McNaughton Cup, the secondary emphasis for us becomes to make sure we finish in the top three so we don't have to play the next day play-in game at the Final Five would be or, you know, as you plan ahead, that would be the next most important thing. So our focus doesn't change. The outcome may change in terms of what we're able to achieve, but we still got to get points on the board.

QUESTION #10: Mike, you mentioned after Saturday's game, you kind of lost the edge, but going on the road you've had that edge, haven't you, for the most part?

EAVES: We are a team that does play pretty well on the road, and hopefully that will be a trend that continues here as we go into this weekend.

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